Clarksville veteran finds passion project to give back to others

Fox 17 Nashville (WZTV) | Sarah Small | April 27, 2021 | Link to Article

A Clarksville veteran, who fought his way to a healthy mental state, is now giving back to a program that's helped him.

Ben Kilhefner first joined the Navy in 2007 as a Corpsman. He had several deployments over the years to Afghanistan. In 2014, Ben medically retired from service due to injuries sustained during his time in the military.

The years were tough for him. He says watching some of his friends and fellow service members die in battle was, no doubt, life changing. It impacted him in ways he didn't think possible.

"I was in a dark place. At one point I was on 15 different medications. I fought to get here," he says. He can now look back and reflect on his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and adds that it's the people in his life who helped him get out of that dark place.

Ben was able to get connected with the Semper Fi & America's Fund. The organization's apprenticeship program helped him find a new passion project.

"I found woodworking. I started restoring cars but stopped due to the cost. Woodworking gave me something else to focus on and I found a new purpose," Ben explains. "It was therapeutic for me and I was able to focus on what was solely in front of me."

The Semper Fi & America's Fund focuses on helping service members reintegrate into the community through vocational education programs.

The Fund helped Ben begin his new business, Rust & Nails Woodworks, in 2020. This year, he's donating a custom-made coffee table to the Fund's upcoming online auction to help other injured service members get the help and support they need.

Veteran Ben Kilhefner finds passion in woodworking and has started his own business (Ben Kilhefner)

"The warrior table, as I call it, represents the things I've gone through in my life through my military experience. If you look at the table, you've got all these walnut keys inside there. In the beginning it's just a cherry slab. It gets cut," he explains. "But just like military trauma experiences, you're broken like the table. But at the end of it, those pieces are what's holding you together."

Ben wants other veterans to know that help is out there. He encourages everyone to help get military members the help they need by providing important and lifesaving information to this community.

"Don't give up. It's a marathon, not a sprint. It's gut wrenching to think that all of us have felt, at one point, like we want to give up. But there is that one person to reach out their hand and say, come follow me. I'm here for you. I'm next to you. I've always been that person who wants to give back."

For more on the Semper Fi & America's Fund, click here.